The Ukrainian legal profession is marked out by a number of lawyers who have already carved themselves a fast track to the top of their profession.
In the last 10 years the high demand for lawyers on Ukraine’s fast-growing market brought up a generation of young and ambitious specialists. Some were made counselors, appointed head of a law firm’s regional office or even founded their own legal business before hitting 30. Others succeeded in becoming a partner in their late 20s which would be impossible in a law firm in the U.K. or the U.S.
“Lawyers of leading British law firms usually become partners between 33 and 36. I have never come across a partner younger than 30 in an international law firm,” said Nick Fletcher, partner at the Kyiv and Warsaw offices of Clifford Chance, one of the U.K.’s “Magic Circle” of leading law firms. Fletcher, 48, became a partner at 35, an average age for this position in his company. In Ukraine this threshold is several years lower.
The overheating of Ukraine’s market before the 2008 crisis led to a shortage of lawyers, and many young lawyers were therefore promoted fast.
But many of them became successful not only due to the favorable market conditions, but because of their ambition and thirst for work. Unlike some of their older colleagues, most of them have studied law at the best universities abroad. Apart from their native Ukrainian and Russian, all of them speak at least one foreign language, mostly English.
Kyiv Post picked just five examples of lawyers who, despite their young age, have already built successful careers in their profession in very different ways.
Antonina Yaholnyk, 31, partner at the Kyiv office of Baker & McKenzie
Yaholnyk, from the Ternopil region in Western Ukraine, was one of five lucky Ukrainian students to win a scholarship to study law at Cambridge University from 2002-3. She graduated from the prestigious law school with an LL.M (Master of Law) degree. She was one of a group of lawyers who founded the competition law department in the Kyiv office of Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s leading law firms, when she was just 24. Yaholnyk became head of the department at the age of 27 and was made a partner at 30.
Quote: “The sooner a young individual realizes what he or she wants to be the better, not only in terms of profession but also exact specialization. From my second year at Lviv University I realized I was not interested in jurisprudence in general, but antimonopoly legislation. At that moment almost nobody was interested in it. After graduation, I realized that every step I took should be in order to develop my specialization. The present and near future is clear: It’s time for narrow specialists in the legal business.”
Client list: Advised ArcelorMittal, PepsiCo, Shell, Nike, EFG Eurobank Ergasias and many other multinational companies on competition law matters. Worked on around 10 initial public offerings, including XXI Century, Ferrexpo and Myronivsky Hliboproduct.
Experience: Before joining the Kyiv office of Baker & McKenzie in 2003, Yaholnyk worked at the European Commission, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliament of Ukraine.
2003 – LL.M. at the University of Cambridge, faculty of law.
2002 – master’s degree in international law and economics at the World Trade Institute, Switzerland.
2001 – bachelor’s degree in law at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.
Viktor Dovhan, 30, managing partner of D&D Lawyers
Dovhan was a pre-senior lawyer at Kyiv’s office of Chadbourne & Park, one of the world’s biggest law firms, when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, taking a particular toll on the legal sector. But he managed to take advantage of this situation. After being made redundant, Dovhan and his partner Eugene Dankanych founded a new law firm, D&D Lawyers, at the age of 29. Now he earns more running his own business, including 25 lawyers in Kyiv, Toronto, New York and partners in Moscow, Warsaw and Brussels.
Quote: “When I was laid off I spent a month thinking whether to work for myself or spend a long time looking for a new job. Now, I have my own law firm, which makes me proud. We lawyers of the younger generation are more flexible than our older colleagues. We do business in crisis conditions. With D&D Lawyers it took us half a year to cover all the initial expenses and start to turn a profit. I want to build a business that will be in the top 10 Ukrainian law firms. To do this in three years is realistic.”
Client list: Marine Transport Bank, Bank Lviv, Ukrainian crane distributor Aviatechservice and Dnipropetrovsk ferroalloy distributor East Vector.
2006 – Ph.D at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Institute of International Relations.
2002 – master of law at the University of Bonn, Germany.
2001 – bachelor of law with distinction at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv;
Olga Khoroshylova, 31, partner at Magisters
Olga Khoroshy-lova was 28 when appointed a partner in Magisters, one of Ukraine’s leading and most dynamically developing law firms. She came to the firm in 2000, building her success on a desire to work and the rapid economic growth that lasted until mid-2008. She now heads the banking and finance practice at Magisters. Khoroshylova’s top client list includes Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance and state energy company Naftogaz, which she has been working with for the last 10 years.
Quote: “At the beginning of your career you have to work really hard, as you are learning. During the most intensive periods of my work I didn’t go home at night. In the morning I would take a shower at the office and carry on working. If a lawyer considers such a rhythm exciting, then he or she will succeed.”
“Older lawyers are definitely more experienced, while lawyers of the younger generation are thirstier for new ideas, for new transactions. That’s why this excitement that pushes them to do more and more transactions can compensate for a relative lack of experience.”
Client list: Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance, Naftogaz, Alfa-Bank, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse bank, Deutsche Bank and UBS.
2001 – Master of International Law, diploma with honours, Institute of International Relations, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
Anna Babych, 27, counselor at Vasil Kisil & Partners
Babych, from the town of Brovary near Kyiv, started working as a lawyer in her third year at university. When she was 22 she came to Vasil Kisil & Partners, one of the leading Ukrainian law firms, and realized it’s the company she wanted to stay in. After five years she was promoted to a counselor. The next goal – to become a partner in the next two or three years – is a realistic aim for the young specialist in corporate and mergers and acquisitions law who has impressive international corporations in her client list.
Quote: “Mergers and acquisitions practice always means big corporations. But behind well known company names are real people. I always teach my younger colleagues that the most important thing is to put yourself in your client’s shoes. All lawyers like to talk a lot and to write a lot with many legal details, but not all clients want to read that. My Korean clients, as many other businessmen from Eastern Asia, like to read reports of 150 pages. When dealing with a local businessman who owns a business in Ukraine, he or she wants you to explain in three words what real risks he would face here. It is very important for a lawyer to establish a personal connection with a client.”
Client List: OTP Bank, BNP Paribas Suisse, ING Bank, Siemens, Google, Central European Media Enterprises, Danone, Philips, Voestalpine, Turkcell, Logitech, British American Tobacco, Aladdin Group and Ukrainian Media Holding.
Education: 2005 – master’s degree in law at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
Markian Malskyy, 25, head of the Western Ukrainian branch of Arzinger
With two master’s degrees in law in Sweden and Switzerland and one from his native city of Lviv, Malskyy could have joined the team of a top law firm in the capital, as many young lawyers do. However, he chose to make a career in his region. A year ago he became head of the Western Ukrainian branch of Arzinger, a local Ukrainian law firm, formerly with international network Arzinger and Partners. Now Malskyy manages an office of five lawyers and wants to make it the leading law team in Western Ukraine.
Quote: “I never sit idle and always keep myself busy. It is nice to realize that in the last five years I have accomplished the same as others in 10 or 15. As the saying goes, don’t work harder, work smarter. Heading the Western Ukrainian branch of Arzinger, I already have a position equivalent to partnership, but it's obvious that no one can become an official partner in a respected law firm in his mid-20s. My first ambition is to become a partner in the next seven years. The second ambition is to prove there are opportunities for personal and business growth not only in Kyiv, but in the regions. Clients became more interested in decent advice with a specific local background.
Client list: Represented Lviv city council in the negotiations with the Union of European Football Associations on preparations for the Euro 2012 football championship to be held in Ukraine and Poland.
2007 – master in international law and economics at the World Trade Institute, Bern, Switzerland.
2006 – LL.M at Stockholm University, Sweden.
2006 – master’s degree at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, faculties of law and international economics.